Warm and Cold and Warm Again

Weed Feb 27

The yard is warm and sunny today, sprinkled with blossoming weeds. A few weeks ago it was frozen and snowy.

Snow Feb 12

This year January and February saw days warm enough for house repairs (replacing wood damaged by carpenter bees), followed closely by days too cold for anything but reading and sleeping.

Damage 3

Bee

Ice January 18

Snow January 23

Some days were strangely confused, cold with bright sunshine or warm with dreary skies.

Vulture Feb 14

Seagull Jan 8

Bird Feb 20

Squirrel Feb 20

Sapsucker Jan 12

Robin Jan 20

Robin Jan 18

Our annual writers’ weekend at the beach brought a little bit of everything.

Beach Feb 1

Beach Feb 1

Beach Feb 4

Beach Feb 4

March will likely bring a little bit more of everything, but hopefully it won’t get fountain-freezing cold again.

Town Center Feb 11

Hopefully.

Sleep, eat, read… blog

Yard December 30

When I didn’t put together a blog post in late October, I resolved to make up for it in November. After November passed without a post, I planned something for December. And when January loomed with the blog still silent, I finally admitted that I had been neglecting more than the blog. I wasn’t procrastinating. I was depressed. Again.

Yard December 30

My inertia started with procrastination, but, as the days grew shorter and shorter, depression took over. In retrospect, I knew this all along. I tried to ignore the symptoms, but in mid-October I had quit doing most of the things I enjoy. The blog was just my most public absence.

Flowers Nov 9

By November, the yard and I were weather-worn and brittle.

Flowers Nov 9

Flowers Nov 9

Off and on in November I picked up my camera, took a few photos, and thought vaguely of how I would describe them in a blog post. Each time I decided to pay bills or clean out the closet instead. (More often than not, I then decided to put off the bills and the closet, too.) So this photo of spider eggs never posted:

Eggs November 24

Nor this exquisite moth:

Moth Sept 17

I woke briefly in mid-November, when the Yellow-rumped Warblers arrived, but soon drifted back into my sleep-eat-read-sleep routine.

Warbler Nov 16

Squirrel Nov 9

Rabbit Nov 9

As December counted down, I told myself lies about how busy I was with holiday preparations.

Ornaments Dec 26 2015

I told others these lies, too, because they were easier than admitting to everyone that the holidays made me feel sad and lonely. That, despite my love for festive decorations, much of my nostalgia is tinged with grief.

Ornaments Dec 26 2015

During my lost months, I watched flocks of birds gather and move on, feeling each time as if I had missed an important message.

Flock Nov 20

Birds Nov 9

Crow Nov 9

Then, one bright and unseasonably warm afternoon, a pair of vultures paused over the yard, basking in the sun. These beautiful, under-appreciated birds sent me scrambling for my camera, something I had not done in weeks.

Vulture Dec 10

Vulture Dec 10

Vulture Dec 10

And on Christmas Eve, despite dreary clouds and a threat of storms, I enjoyed an afternoon in the yard with my camera.

Starling Dec 24

This time I felt closer to getting the message.

Birds Dec 24

In the after-Christmas lull, I slept and ate and read and slept, but there was a spark of something different in the routine. A current of ambition to do more than sleep and eat and read. As I put away our decorations, I noticed a pot of pansies that I had never planted. And all the empty bird feeders.

Muscovy Jan 3

On the first Sunday of 2016, I took a walk with my old camera. As I photographed ducks and geese and seagulls, my internal dialogue became a patter of possible captions for the photos. That evening I edited the images with extra care, eager to post them. But I couldn’t decide how to post them. The blog had been silent for so long. Now that I was ready to post again, how should I explain my absence? Should I simply resume posting? Gloss over two months fogged by recurring depression?

Merganser Jan 3

If I tried to explain, would I be able to describe depression without being depressing? (I don’t believe I’ve succeeded, but I decided to post this anyway. Too many people avoid talking about depression for too many reasons, which makes it that much lonelier.)

Heron Jan 3

I’ve lived with depression (and its frequent companion–anxiety) for a very long time. Longer than I’ll usually admit. Compared to past experience, this bout was mild and short-lived. Now I’m making changes that should help speed my recovery. Over the weekend I stocked the kitchen with healthier food, started exercising, and spent more time outside with my camera. These are, I’ve learned, my best defenses.

Seagull Jan 3

So as January progresses, along with a more mindful schedule of sleeping and eating and reading, I’ll be walking and writing and blogging. (And renewing my efforts to learn meditation. More on this later.)

Mallard Jan 3

And as the days get longer and longer, I’ll start looking forward to spring. Because spring will come. It always does.

Mallard Jan 3

Summer’s Last Swallowtails

In the final weeks of September, one of the butterflies emerged with damaged wings. She couldn’t fly, so I kept her in the caterpillar habitat and gave her fresh clippings from the butterfly bush every day.

Swallowtail Sept 21

Sometimes I took her out of the enclosure and carried her around the yard, letting her sample marigolds and lantana and salvia.

Swallowtail Sept 27

When she died, a day or two before her two-week birthday, she had undeniably lived longer than she would have lived in the yard. But was it enough?

Swallowtail Sept 21

Was nectar enough, or did my butterfly regret her flightless wings and unfertilized eggs?

What does a butterfly, or a caterpillar, need from life?

Caterpillar Sept 28

Do they yearn for sunshine and plentiful food? Do they crave happiness? Do they grieve?

Caterpillars August 27

There’s a poem hiding in these questions, but it’s so well hidden that I can’t find where it starts. Not today, anyway. Not with a rainy cold front outside and a miserable cough inside.

Caterpillar Sept 21

My last swallowtail caterpillar molted into a chrysalis yesterday. Now I have twenty-five chrysalises ready for winter.

Caterpillar Oct 15

It’s an interesting idea, sleeping through winter. What if I could simply set my alarm for “spring” and call my blankets a chrysalis? On days like today, cough and all, it seems like a good idea. But what about snow? And holidays? Would I be sad, in the spring, that I had missed them? Would you?

Chrysalis Oct 16

Spring is in the Air (and in the Ground)

Fly April 10

When the pear tree’s pollinators finally arrived, they arrived in encouraging numbers. Hoverflies were the first wave, pretending to be bees.

Fly April 10

Fly April 10

A wave of true bees followed.

Bee April 10

Bee April 10

Happily, a few Question Mark butterflies drifted in near the end.

Question Mark April 10

Question Mark April 10

While the pear blooms lasted, the yard’s winter flock of yellow-rumped warblers divided their time between sipping nectar, foraging for insects, and sampling the last block of winter suet.

Warbler April 11

Warbler April 11

(As an aside, I spotted the following warbler yesterday and was confused by its complete lack of yellow feathers. I believe it is a yellow-rumped warbler, but I’ve never seen one that didn’t have at least a blush of yellow under its wings. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identification!)

Warbler April 22

As the pear tree dropped its petals, we readied the yard for summer. We replaced damaged boards on the aging deck, uncovered the ginger lilies, and swept leaves out of the cactus bed. (The carpenter bees ignored us and concentrated on chasing each other. They also chased warblers, chickadees, crane flies, hoverflies, beetles, bees, leaves, dandelion fluff, and pear petals.)

Bee April 22

The garden stores aren’t fully stocked yet, but we found most of the plants on our list: dill, fennel, milkweed, columbine, annual lantana, snapdragons, salvia, and cosmos.

Flowers April 22

Yesterday, this American Painted Lady butterfly made me wish we had planted more cosmos. (The yard’s 2015 butterfly sightings, so far, are a major improvement over last year’s butterfly drought, but they don’t begin to equal 2012’s impressive migration.)

Butterfly April 22

The yard’s birds have been getting ready for summer, too. This little house wren doesn’t have a mate yet, but he clearly has a favorite house.

House Wren April 21

House Wren April 21

A pair of robins finished their nest last week and now spend most of their hours foraging.

Robin April 22

Robin April 22

(I am amazed by how many worms they find and eat each day.)

Robin April 22

The robins aren’t the only efficient foragers in our area. A pair of osprey make regular passes over the yard, carrying fish. Yesterday I caught a few frames as one of the pair nearly dropped its lunch on the deck.

Osprey April 22

After a brief struggle, which lasted no more than two wingbeats, the osprey managed to subdue its lunch and flew on. What would happen if the fish managed to break free? Would the osprey land on my deck and reclaim its catch? (I’d probably drop my camera and break it, leaving me with no proof of why I dropped it…)

Over the years I’ve found many surprising things in the yard, but never a fish. Perhaps this summer?

Osprey April 22

Except, it’s not summer yet. Today the windows are closed against a surge of chill that moved in overnight and is forecasted to last through the next few days. Mother would have called it dogwood winter, expecting the dogwoods to bloom after the chill passed. Or blackberry winter, if the blackberries were due to bloom. I’m content to call it the end of winter.

Hawk April 18

Before and After

Three days ago the yard was leafing out in anticipation of spring.

Honeysuckle Feb 14

That was before winter tightened its icy grip.

Honeysuckle Feb 17

I don’t expect the honeysuckle will sustain any permanent damage.

Honeysuckle Feb 14

Honeysuckle Feb 17

The hydrangea should also survive.

Hydrangea Feb 14

Hydrangea Feb 17

Because winter can’t hold on forever. The ice and snow will melt.

Stonecrop Feb 14

Stonecrop Feb 17

Soon I’ll be able to pry open the frozen gate and let spring edge a few steps further into the yard.

Gate Feb 17